The concept of dual citizenship was introduced in India by the Citizenship ( Amendment ) Act, 2005 pursuant to the recommendation of a High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora constituted by the Govt of India.
Under section 7A of the newly added provision in the Indian Citizenship Act, persons of Indian origin holding passports of certain foreign countries, can get OCI ( Overseas Citizens of India ) cards, and thereby get the rights mentioned in section 7B which allows them to come and live in India without a visa, and places them on the same legal footing as Indian citizens, except that they cannot vote in Indian elections or join any political party.
Now by a new circular issued by the Govt of India under on 4th March, 2021, certain severe restrictions have been imposed on OCI card holders.
As can be seen, by this circular issued under section 7B of the Citizenship Act, OCI cardholders have now to obtain a special permit from the concerned authority for undertaking research, do missionary or Tablighi activities, do journalistic activities, or visit any prohibited, restricted, or protected area.
As regards the requirement to get special permission for doing journalism, this seems to be aimed at journalists like Siddhartha Varadarajan who is a US national and has been living in India and writing often against the BJP Govt in his portal the wire.in . Already he is facing several cases against himself in various courts.
As regards, missionary activities, this requirement seems to have been made to nullify the effect of a judgment of the Delhi High Court in Dr Christo Thomas Philip vs Union of India
It is also aimed at the Tablighi Jamaat, which has been in the news lately. This is despite the fact that the court has dismissed cases against its members.
One wonders what exactly the term ‘research activities’ in the circular mean, and which are the prohibited, restricted, or protected areas which OCI cardholders cannot visit.
These new unwarranted restrictions seem to be a knee jerk reaction of a govt which is feeling insecure as it is facing opposition on many fronts lately e.g. the ongoing farmers agitation. Earlier, Aatish Taseer’s OCI card had been revoked for calling Prime Minister Modi India’s Divider in Chief
Let us see what other such steps are forthcoming in the future.
(Justice Markandey Katju is former Chairman, Press Council of India and former Judge, Supreme Court of India.)